In a previous life, Danella Weir was probably a sub editor. Apostrophes, hyphens and widows all fascinate her and she fanatically proof-reads restaurant menus. A nightmare dinner date.
As BBC marketing manager, brand communications, Weir’s eye for detail has proved essential in narrowing down the hundreds of applications for the BBC’s first official design roster, but she admits she has had to cultivate an objective distance from the minutiae to help her in this mammoth task.
It was the BBC’s roster that hit Design Week’s headlines in September 2001 and it is Weir, together with the Advertising Agency Register, who has had the unenviable task of sifting through the 700-plus applications that have graced her desk since the 5 October 2001 deadline.
In selecting consultancies, Weir says she has helped the AAR, which has vast experience in this area, with knowledge of the BBC culture and ‘what might fit’. Selection criteria at this stage was based on credentials, but she declines to go into detail.
The roster is not even her day job. Weir’s main role is that of brand guardian of the BBC logo, which involves liaising with people to ensure the marque is used correctly, particularly in commercial contexts. ‘As the BBC is a public service organisation, it needs to be very careful about how its logo is used,’ she says.
The BBC brand is assuming greater importance at the corporation, particularly since the arrival of director of marketing and communications Andy Duncan in June 2001. Duncan, who replaced Matthew Bannister, is aiming to leverage the brand and has persuaded director-general Greg Dyke to set aside £20m for marketing.
To help her with more routine logo-related calls, Weir is recruiting a marketing executive this month. And, true to her diligent nature, she is clarifying the BBC’s brand guidelines to encourage people to make their own decisions about its usage.
‘People within the BBC generally know how things operate but outsiders working with the corporation often need guidance when using the logo,’ she says.
Enquiries are diverse to say the least. ‘We get everything from “Can I put it on a horse box?”, to “I am running a promotion with a fast-food restaurant and need some advice”,’ she says.
Use of the logo is a small part of the enormous amount of design work undertaken within the corporation. The roster is required precisely because there is ‘a hell of a lot of design’ at the BBC, Weir says.
Her meticulous approach to things has probably helped her tackle the task, which fell under her remit when her boss, head of marketing strategy and planning David Grint, set up the advertising roster in December 2000. He chose her because she had already managed one of the BBC’s internal design teams, Design and Publication.
Here, she oversaw the design of BBC educational tools for schools, such as revision guides, when she joined as account handler in 1998. Her remit soon broadened beyond education and she was promoted to the head of the department after just a year.
Weir moved to Broadcasting House from White City at Easter last year to take on her current role.
She is still going through roster applications with the AAR, which has been ‘brilliant’, and was ‘staggered’ by the size and quality of the response.
True to the nature of the way consultancies work, most applications arrived on the day of the deadline. This left Weir with a mountain of envelopes to open after weeks of worrying that she wouldn’t have a roster at all.
The number of applications came as quite a shock as it had only expected two or three hundred, says AAR head of strategic consultancy and design, Peggy Connor.
‘Glaring mistakes on covering letters meant the document went straight in the bin, but we did try to be fair,’ Weir says.
She says Weir approached the task determined that no groups should be overlooked just because they were at the bottom of the post sack. ‘She went to great efforts to treat each entry fairly and was determined to ensure her day job ran smoothly, too,’ Connor says.
Connor says Weir is rigorous in her approach and always correcting written grammar. ‘She could write an essay on the misuse of the apostrophe,’ Connor laughs.
Weir spent a long time prior to setting up the roster picking the brains of marketing staff at the BBC about what they want from consultancies. ‘We have to make sure that we have got all of the disciplines covered,’ she says.
There is still much to be done. The prestigious television identities category is down to a five-strong shortlist at time of going to press. The final number of the next stage tender has not been decided, but whatever happens, it could signal an end to the reign of Lambie-Nairn, which has been the BBC’s preferred identity consultancy for several years.
Once the roster is in place, Weir will take a back seat. She won’t commission design directly but will recommend consultancies to departments within the BBC, as she will be one of the few people to have an overview of all of them from her marketing communications vantage point.
Most design work will filter through Duncan’s marketing and communications division from different departments unless they are already enjoying a particularly strong relationship with a consultancy.
Weir will also oversee consultancies’ performance. ‘We need to be sure they are meeting our expectations,’ she says. Under-performing groups can be dropped from the roster, but it will be harder to recruit new ones as it is such a long-winded process in which all tenders must be placed in the Official Journal.
‘I want to be damn sure we’ve got it right the first time round,’ she says.
The roster is arriving at the same time as a discernable sea-change within the BBC. Marketing communications as a discipline has assumed greater importance, Weir says. ‘[It] had never enjoyed a place on the top table at the BBC; it is only since Greg [Dyke] arrived that it has got through the door,’ she says.
So, there’s a lot of work to keep Weir busy. But if she ever finds herself twiddling her thumbs, there’s always sub-editing to fall back on
Danella Weir’s CV
Born: Epsom, Surrey
Home: Leatherhead, Surrey
Education: Bohunt Secondary School, Hampshire; Alton Tertiary College
Career: Joined the BBC in 1998 as account handler, education marketing services after jobs in advertising, sales promotion and charity fundraising; BBC marketing manager, brand communications since Easter 2001
Boss: BBC head of marketing strategy and planning David Grint